The traditional awards like MVP, Coach of the Year, or Defensive/Offensive Player of the Year are going to be given out and voted upon by a committee to wrap up the year. They’re voted on by NFL media, buttoned-up reporters in suits awarding what all appear to be narrative awards to sum up the year.
The NFL is a storybook. Sometimes only giving out those awards doesn’t tell the story of the wild year. So, in order to tell the story, these are the unconventional awards that help better illustrate the wild year in football that we just had.
The TMZ Award- Urban Meyer, Former HC, Jacksonville Jaguars
Even though he was one of the best college coaches in history, from day one, hiring Urban Meyer in Jacksonville felt like a bad idea, and boy, is that an understatement. There’s a timeline of TMZ-level events that all occurred off the field that have Jacksonville with the worst record for the second year in a row:
He brought in Chris Doyle to be the strength coach as his first hire despite previous racist accusations and bullying scandals, so Doyle resigned. He brought back his former star Tim Tebow to try out and play tight end that created a media circus to start the year. He drafted Travis Etienne in the first round to be a “third down back” which makes no sense at all given the value of the pick and his playstyle. After a loss in Cincinnati, he didn’t fly back with the team and instead went to his pint house where a video came out of a young woman… dancing? On him went viral. Then, it was revealed he demeaned all of his hired assistants for being “losers.” Finally, the icing on the cake was a kicker claiming he kicked him in the leg at a practice before he was fired.
Urban Meyer was a TMZ gold mine this year for all the wrong reasons, so much that now we don’t even know if Trevor Lawrence, deemed to be the most sure-fire #1 overall pick since his freshman year, is good any more or if his experience with Meyer broke him.
The “How do ya like them apples?” Award- Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
Mac Jones came into the NFL to immediate criticism: while the quarterback of the undefeated National Champion Alabama team, NFL draft “experts” argued that he was the quarterback of the team with the best surrounding talent ever, he’s an immobile pocket-passer, and the viral picture of him shirtless looking a bit round as he smoked his victory cigar is pretty much all we saw. The Patriots taking him at 15th overall as the fifth quarterback felt like a desperate reach for something new as they were in the midst of an identity crisis without their prince, Tom Brady.
Well, the Pats are back in the postseason and Mac Jones looks like the best of all of the rookie quarterbacks, how do ya like them apples??
It hasn’t been the flashiest of seasons for Mac, but he’s been enough and has used the tools Belichick has given him as his young padawan to look like he could be the face of a Pats team that was an empire for two decades. Bill, Mac Jones, and the Patriots have provided Boston sports with one more opportunity to spite the collective media for decades once again.
The Terrell Owens “That’s My Quarterback!” Award- Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
After Joe Burrow looked like their franchise guy through the first month of the 2020 season, his crippled offensive line allowed him to take hit after hit, and he suffered a season-ending injury that essentially disintegrated his leg. The weak point of the Bengals team was the offensive line, and they were going to have a high draft pick to address it. However, Joe Burrow stood on the table for his college teammate at LSU, Ja’Marr Chase, and pleaded that they draft him instead of presumably left tackle Penei Sewell.
The Bengals listened to Burrow and drafted Sewell, and now their chemistry looks like one of the greatest connections in all of sports. Chase catches deep ball after deep ball, likely to be offensive rookie of the year, and has nearly 1500 yards and 13 TD’s. Who knows what would have happened to Chase if he landed somewhere else, and Burrow still could use some more protection, but they’re the best bromance in football, and it’s all due to Burrow standing up for his guy.
The “It’s Not You, It’s Me” Award- Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
After another disappointing year filled with pressures behind his offensive line, Russell Wilson, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, basically said, “yeah, I don’t want to be traded, but if you guys DO want to trade me, here’s a list of places I’d like to go.” It set the tone for a really awkward season in Seattle. It didn’t help when Russell Wilson broke his finger and had surgery, rushed back from the injury, and has had his worst season of his career.
The Seahawks look like they have no future now because they’re losing, they’re old, they don’t have money, and the Jets own their draft pick. Basically, they have no outlet to get better, and Russell Wilson sees that. There’s been rumors all year of a breakup, whether it be getting rid of Pete Carroll as a restart or trading Wilson to rebuild, but it feels like Wilson is the one insinuating it now. He’s making statements in press conferences unprompted saying things like “I hope this isn’t my last game in Seattle” as if change is imminent. You have a no trade clause, Russ! You can stay if you want!
What an awkward, hopeless situation in Seattle as it looks like a decade-defining team is now dead.
The Grandma in the Kitchen Award- Mike Vrabel, HC, Tennessee Titans
We love the grandma that can go into the kitchen and whip up a five-star home-cooked meal with any given ingredients in the pantry you give them. That’s what Mike Vrabel did with the Titans this year; no matter the circumstances, the loss of their OC Arthur Smith, the brutal injury to Derrick Henry, Julio Jones not living up to his billing, and having
to use the most starters ever in a season because of injuries and COVID protocols, none of it even mattered. He took those ingredients in that cabinet and coached up a team that is going to have home field advantage throughout the entire playoffs as the #1 seed and a 12-5 record. Riding a 3-game win streak, they’ll get a week off and Derrick Henry back from injury, and the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through Nashville.
Vrabel takes all of the adversity you put on his plate and eats it all up.
The Joker “It’s about sending a message” Award- Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
In The Dark Knight, the late-great Heath Ledger’s Joker stands, lighting millions of dollars in cash on fire, and quietly says to an associate, “It’s not about the money… it’s about sending a message.”
This sums up Aaron Rodgers 2021 season: another dominant middle-finger year as an agent of chaos, angering the masses out of pure enjoyment for the second season in a row. Last year he won the 2020 MVP fueled by spiting his own team for drafting a replacement quarterback, this year he’s spiting all of us by looking like another MVP once again. He’s overcoming offseason drama in which he openly talked about wanting out of Green Bay in the long-term. He’s angering the masses with claiming he was “immunized” rather than vaccinated- there are already MVP voters saying that they wouldn’t vote for him solely because he’s a jerk. This epic performance of another season with 13+ wins under Matt LaFleur isn’t about a contract- it’s about sending another message. Rodgers truly has been the chaotic supervillain mastermind of the season.
The Soccer Mom Award- Odell Beckham Sr., Odell Beckham Jr.’s Dad
“Why’s my son on the bench?” -every defensive soccer mom at a peewee tournament ever
“Why’s my son in Cleveland?” -Odell Beckham Sr.
Odell Beckham’s dad practically forced Cleveland’s hand in releasing him so that he landed on a team with a quarterback that would give him more targets by posting videos calling out Baker missing opportunities to throw to him. It got too awkward for him to stay at that point and the Browns had to cut ties with him… Only for him to join a Super Bowl contender in beautiful Los Angeles with Matt Stafford throwing him the ball days later. The soccer mom approach worked and he already has as many touchdowns in LA in 5 games as he had in his entire time in Cleveland. If that’s all it takes, maybe more parents will begin to be active on Instagram…